Monday, December 21, 2015

The Nun and Me

Several years ago, when I was still co-directing the NEH Concord Workshops, I met a very kind and very young nun from the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who had become separated from her companion. Sisters are not permitted to be alone in public, so I asked if I could stay with her until she located the missing Sister. She was a teacher and, before long, we had formed a friendship based on literature and our devotion to the Holy Mother (I am not Catholic, btw, but I am quite devoted to the Mother Mary). Sister recommended some books and, her friend being found, we parted company.

We have remained friends, corresponding occasionally, sharing books and experiences. And, through many "coincidences" things have unfolded in our relationship that speaks to Divine influence and planning. Prayers I asked her for have been answered and resulted in remarkable interconnections in both our worlds that neither of us could have anticipated.

Our worlds are so very different and, yet, she has contributed to my life in a myriad of ways. I am enriched by her influence and that of her Sisters. And, I have come to understand that her life is just as challenging and interesting as mine. Convent life is no doubt just as real as mine; it isn't sequestered, but, rather, it is rich, full and, even more amazing to me, more useful than I often feel mine is.

And, what surprises me even more, is that friends can be found anywhere if we are just willing to open our eyes and hearts.

Merry Christmas, dear ones!

Monday, November 30, 2015


  One baby blankie... 

 Two baby blankie... 

Three baby blankie... 

Nothing brings me more joy than knitting something warm and snuggely for a new life coming into this sometimes cold and unkind world. I knit love and good wishes into each stitch, thinking of the new life and the potential that is there. And, it seems, these days, I am surrounded by a lot of new life, great potential, coming into this world. I hope they are able to make of this world what my generation seems to have failed at --- kinder, more loving, and gentler... 

And stars to dream by... 

What is beautiful in your world? 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Best Medicine....

Six hundred pounds of pork...
If laughter is the best medicine, I should be the healthiest person you know...

Today, we delivered our pork. We had 600 pounds to deliver and 2 friends were picking up theirs from the processor at the same time we were. A short time later, my phone rang:

C: I have a head.
Me: A head? What kind?
C: A pig head.
Me: They were picked up by G and T to make souse meat. How do you have a head?
C: I don't know. But I have it. BTW, I wish had a picture of me when I opened the bag. I was okay until I turned it around and saw the snout.

By this time I was a puddle.....

A bit later, the phone rang again. 

C: Are you coming to get this, um, this, um thing in  my car?
Me: The pig's head? Yup. I'll be there in a bit.
C: It's in a cooler; will it be okay?
Me: I don't think it will go anywhere. If it's cool, it'll be fine.
C: I can put it in the dumpster....
Me: I'll be there in a bit. G and T want it...

Again, I was a puddle... It wasn't that she was so funny, but the background music in my car was killing me.... Mister kept whistling the theme from "The Godfather..."

And, so, it goes... 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Here, piggie....

Joyfully, the pigs are headed to the processor tomorrow and will return in lovely vacuum sealed bags for the freezer. Frankly, I am tired of carrying food to the, er, pigs... It is true that they do... Eat. A. Lot. All. The. Time. We are up to nearly 75 pounds of food per day... It's exhausting!

These porkers came to us in April and weighed all of 35 pounds. Now, we estimate they are close to 300-350 pounds. They are so large that we could barely get the trailer ball on the truck without both of us pumping the lift.. Now that is Some Pig. 

Three are sold, on hoof, to friends who will pay for the pig once it is dressed, but not finished, by weight. Then, they will pay for the processing and pick it up. One is ours that we will split with my parents. And, the last will be shared between a number of relatives, and, I hope, some left over for us. 

Pork is one of those things that if you haven't ever had pasture raised, you have been cheated from savoring a flavor without description. The stuff that comes from the grocery pales in comparison. Our porkers play in the mud, stretch in the sun, dig holes and wallow in the water, root and eat grubs, and have non-GMO feed for their entire life. We tell them from the beginning of our relationship what their fate is and that we want them to enjoy a fine, wonderful life. We scratch them, hose them, and chase them (or they chase us) in a game of tag. I gather apples for them and find them scraps, such as corn cobs when I can corn, so they have treats. They really have a marvelous life. 

Once they are loaded on the trailer, which we do gently and not with a prod or anything that will hurt them, we feed them corn one more time and tell them how we honor them for providing us with good meat for the coming year. We thank them for being sweet piggies and for the pleasure we have had with them. 

This past fall, when it had rained for eleven straight days and Mister was out of commission with a neck injury, I was out feeding them. Their lot was slick as goose grease and I was having trouble walking with their feed bags (they weigh 50 pounds). One pig got on my right and another mirrored that one on the left... and they started scratching their backs on me... until I slipped in the mud and fell flat on my face... and they continued scratching until I got up... I was mudlicious from left to right, top to bottom... and had to hose off in the yard... If I could have stopped laughing, I would have been annoyed... but somehow, the visualization of a 60 year old woman being scrubbed by pigs cracked me up... 

And, you ask, after loving on them, playing with them, and enjoying them, how, how can we eat them? Easy. We name them Pork Chop, Tenderloin, Sausage, Ham, and Roast.... 


Saturday, November 14, 2015


November Twilight. The world's most perfect light...

 "Make you the world a bit better or more
beautiful because you have lived in it."
Edward Bok 

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida      

Perhaps... just perhaps... we should focus on this?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Unsettled and Changing

People wish to be settled.
It is only as far as they are unsettled that there is any hope for them. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life
which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Tell me, 
what is it you plan to do
with your one wild, precious life? 
Mary Oliver

We are born to fulfill a role in this world and then, hopefully, leave the world better than it was before we took our few precious breaths and then departed. Sometimes, we are thrust into these roles; sometimes, we fail to listen to our heart; and, sometimes, we flow with the river around us because it demands so little. 

But the day comes when, as Mary Oliver writes in "The Journey": 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 As for me, I am looking for the stars...  What about you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recycle, Reinvent

This old white cabinet is a knock off of the antique version. I bought this over 20 years ago because, at the time, I couldn't afford the real deal, but this gave me the feel I wanted. It has lived in the barn for quite a while, but, I decided I wanted to make it a TV cabinet for temporary use. So, Mister and I took the glass doors from the top and put them on the bottom, removed the bottom solid doors, and removed all the upper shelves. I patched her up, sanded her, added some wood trim, and got her ready to paint.

I started by searching through my Annie Sloan Chalk Paints to see what I had enough of to mix to create the colours I wanted. I love purple, so I knew the drawers' interiors would have to be purple. What a nice surprise to open them and see that lovely color! I mixed Old White with Henrietta to get the tone I wanted. Then, I wanted the cabinet itself to be a soft yellow, so I mixed Old White with Gold until I got the soft, butter colour I envisioned. And, last, the inside had to be black to hide the TV when it was off and to show off the quilts that I wanted to store in the base.

Then, I gently mixed a little of the dark and clear wax and gave her a good rub down... I was so happy with her...

 For now, this is making me happy. And, I especially like that I have reused and reinvented something for short term use.

How do you recycle or reinvent?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Round House

This little house sits on the hill above the New River in Mouth of Wilson. It is where my family spent every summer, swimming, playing, fishing, jumping from the porch, and watching the night lights. I had my worst case of poison ivy Ever In the History Of the World here after I fell from my bike smack into the midst of a poison ivy bed. We worked puzzles, tons of puzzles, under the downstairs porch.

Long before this rail was installed, my siblings and I would take a run-and-go from the second story and fling ourselves into the open space, hoping to fly, and land with a THUD! right by my Mother's feet as she sat downstairs reading, napping, or working her puzzles. No doubt she stayed a nervous wreck, but we had a terrific time sailing to the ground and sinking to our ankles in the soft ground below.

We slept on the porch, in sleeping bags, waking up wet from dew, with the morning sun dazzling on the river below. Mother would have coffee perking, biscuits in the oven, and fresh fish frying. We caught them in the evening and put them in the holding pool next to the kitchen for our morning nosh. Then, we would rush upstairs, throw on bathing suits (was there really a time I wasn't self-conscious enough I'd wear one all day?), and hop on our bikes to ride the dirt road to the "waterfall" to play. Scabs covered our knees (I wasn't graceful, after all) and we smelled of sunshine, water, and dirt. Pure health....

The "bathroom" consisted of a small toilet and sink. We bathed, even though we spent the day in the water, in a wash tub. I was first, so the water was cleanest then. By the time my baby sister got in, the water would be nearly as muddy as the dusty holes in the dirt road. The nights would be cool and we'd run to jump in our sleeping bags, ready to watch the stars, speculate about space men, and build our castles in the air.

The kitchen had an enormous rock in the middle that the original builders couldn't get out of the door, so we had to walk around it to get to the refrigerator. The wiring was DC, so we had a rubber mat in front of the fridge to avoid the pending shock from touching the door and grounding ourselves. If one were angry with a certain, a-hem, brother, she would step from the mat, touch the brother, and then the door. Instant revenge! 

Below, the river would continue her centuries old song, lulling us to sleep. She sang of Scot-Irish who traveled this river to "discover" the "Natives" who had lived here for millennia. She sang of floods and droughts and log canoes. She sang of her journey north, as the New River is one of two rivers in the world that flows northward. Today, she is a protected River, a "national treasure." But, to a handful of small children, she was the world. Our days revolved around her -- both in and out.

I miss those days. I miss the innocence and I miss the shocking blue sky. I miss wearing my bathing suit all day. And, I miss gathering berries, nuts, creek lettuce, and catching fish for our dinner.  Most of all, I miss the swinger of trees and catcher of fireflies that I was. When do we grow old? One day at a time or just all at once?? Yet, when I go to the river, I am young least for a moment....

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Power ...

Yesterday I met with an adult female student who wanted to withdraw from her LPN program. Reason? "I'm not being there for my children or my husband," she wept.

Then, we talked.

In short, her husband, who works out of state and is home a grand total of four days a month, has decided that she needs to be more present for him and their three children -- one who is in college, a senior in high school, and a six-year-old who has discovered that acting out earns everyone's attention. She disclosed that her husband came home to inspect the house and found anything that wasn't clean and scolded her. He refuses to tell her their income, except that it is "over $100,000", and, he believes she isn't giving him enough attention the four days a month he is home. She wept harder and harder as she told me this.

"But," she said, "I have such a heart for helping people. I take care of everyone and everything. He sleeps, eats, and wants sex when he is home. He doesn't pay any attention to the children. And, he pays me a salary for being home."

At this point, I wanted to shake her and scream, "Why are you doing this?? What about your desires? Your dreams? Your gifts?"

She's a straight A student in nursing. Holy cow.

One day, I fear, she will wake up to find he has found "his soul" with a woman half his age. She will have no skills, not experience, nothing.

I wanted to tell her that education is power. It is freedom. Choice. Control of one's life. Opportunity. A chance to make a difference in her children's lives by modeling how to pursue a dream and achieve a goal. She is showing her daughters how to stand on their own two feet. How she is becoming an adult instead of her husband's child, maid, housekeeper, and baby maker.

Instead, I patted her arm and told her that she had to do what would give her peace.

She filled out the form. And left. I was shattered.... for her, her children, and even her bully husband. A chance to grow and learn was lost.

If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation). -- Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Little Magic...

Recently, I was favored with a surprise visit to Philadelphia to see family I haven't seen in 15 months and, while I was there, imagine this... a guy from Rome showed up!

Papa Fransisco! Papa Fransisco! 

What an amazing event! All things magically fell into place for me to see my loved one and to win a ticket to see "Papa Fransisco!" when he spoke at Independence Hall. The love, peace, and joy were overwhelming!  I loved hearing the crowd chant for "Papa Fransisco!" as he rode past in the Pope Mobile, waving, smiling, and blessing them as he passed. I was close enough to the podium that I could see His Holiness AND read the translation on the 40-foot screen as he spoke. Fortunately, I speak enough Spanish that I could follow most of his speech, but it was nice to have the translation at times! 

Philadelphia is such a lovely city. The people were generous, kind, and helpful.... and the city, gulp, the city took my breath away! Here's a few of the sights that took my breath! 

A Circular Rainbow appeared as I was going through the third security check point.

Cakes! The one on the right has a fondant icing for the miter and the painting is icing.

The Holy Mother at the Shrine of Mary's Miraculous Medal. I love the Holy Mother and wept.

Another grotto at the Shrine of Mary's Miraculous Medal. I counted around 16 grottoes in the cathedral.

On the left background is the Cathedral where the Pope held mass; the back right is the City Hall.

Quilt, handpieced, at the Arch Street Friend's Meeting. It was stunning!

I would have liked to have known this guy! Safecracker? Awesome!

Ben and I were sharing a moment.. He wouldn't let me sit in his lap -- gout...

Preparations for the Independence Hall event... I was standing under the tree on the far right...

And.... the one photo that sums up the "Phillie Woodstock" for me... 

Yup. He was going "nature boy" and waiting on "the man"!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Day Musings: There Was a Time...

... when I looked forward to starting school again. I loved getting ready -- planning the authors we'd read; developing lessons that were fun and creative; searching for new video clips or ideas to incorporate into my classroom; and, seeing students grow and learn about themselves in a new way.

That feeling is gone.

Now, lest you think I am wallowing in self-pity, I am not. Okay. Maybe a little. But, more than that, I am thinking about why the anticipation has been replaced by dread.

It comes to this.

Education has become a one size fits all. Instead of decisions being student driven, it is motivated by funding, government rules, or political beliefs. It has become a forum for making "everyone feel good about themselves" rather than challenging one to grow beyond their comfort level. It has become yet another forum for pop psychology instead of one of standards and the recognition that we need garbage collectors AND doctors. (Frankly, I adore my garbage collector every week; my doctor, well, a few times a year. Both have their place and role. One is not better than another, yet, in academia, there is a snobbery that the garbage collector has unrecognized potential and should aspire to more.) This is yet another reason the passion is gone; the failure to acknowledge that there are limits to ability and that some folks, to be honest, just aren't college material. And, by the way, that is perfectly okay.

Reporting - completers, retention, financial aid, assessment, recruiting -- are just a few of the ways an institution can spend time looking at itself and find ways to self-aggrandize as well as a way to avoid confronting the real issues -- academic freedom, academic standards, not to mention faculty salary and professional standards. Those instructors who are most popular carry teaching loads twice their colleagues, yet those colleagues remain mediocre because they tick the right boxes politically or through their academic rhetoric. There doesn't have to be substance, just compliance.

The jargon, the philosophies are more important than the ability to effectively meet a student where they are and lift them. Gatekeepers to programs or student goals impede success rather than inspire it. No one can say what power human desire and motivation can have over a low placement score or underdeveloped critical thinking skills. This hamstringing of weaker students destroys potential and, ultimately, deprives society of perhaps the next Einstein or Emerson. Neither were stellar students either, by the way.

And, so, here I am, one day from reentering a world that I feel I no longer belong, in which I feel I am a minority. I want to teach and be left alone by all the outside distractions. I want to spend this first week back on campus meeting with students, working on lesson plans, building enthusiasm for my content. I want to have my time respected. I want to feel appreciated, necessary, in a meaningful manner rather than spending my time checking the box for seeing so-and-so video or attending such-and-such meeting.

Teachers have a saying that, "what really matters is what happens when you close the door to your classroom." I am trying to hold on to this thought, this belief. I feel what a drowning person must feel. I gasp the air, hold my breath, and push up again.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Things I've Learned This Week...

My sister and I contracted with our parents to paint the interior of three rental houses this week. On day three, my Sissie awoke with a softball-sized MRSA infection. So, I have plugged on solo. Following are the things I have learned this week:

10. Break the ice. Go ahead and drop the open paint can. On the carpet. Without paper towels handy.

9. If there is still a little ice to break, step back into the paint tray. It is always good for a laugh.

8. Make sure one ladder is only five feet tall. That makes reaching the nine-foot ceilings even more interesting as well as a great work out for your abs and shoulders!

7. When painting the kitchen, walk on the counter tops, moving the ladder along with you. Then, when the ladder tips over, you can enjoy the challenge of dismounting without spilling your paint. Again.

6. Always start by painting the closet trim. That way, when you back out, you can back into the trim and have a lovely white stripe on your backside. But, don't worry. It will match the white spill down the front where you dismounted from the kitchen counter.

5. Never select your own painting tools. That way you will have the pleasure to spending a day with a roller on an extension handle that spins every time you start to roll the ceiling OR put paint on the roller. Now, your hair will match your shirt and paints.

4. When working as a team, be sure to avoid any communication of what each of you are painting. That way, when you finish washing your brushes for the day, you can enjoy the discovery that you each thought the other was painting the attic access. Yay! One more time up the short ladder!

3. If you sing together, be sure to know who can carry a tune. That way, when you are belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the less talented singer falsetto's into "Let me go!" , you won't be caught with your arm over your head when you burst into laughter nearly slinging yourself into the floor with the paint. Again.

2. Always turn your shirt wrong side out when driving home. After all, you have dismounted a counter top, stepped in paint, dropped a paint can, and backed into wet trim. You don't want to get paint on your car.

And, my personal favorite...

1. When stopping at the grocery store on the way home, shirt wrong side out, paint on most of your body be prepared for the, "Are you painting?" question with a witty response, "No, I was painting my toenails and got a little carried away."

Don't you wish you were me?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I was in a really terrible mood all day. I mean REALLY terrible. Can't say why, exactly, but nothing pleased me. I cleaned the downstairs, did laundry, baked chocolate chip cookies, knit, and even watch a bit of an old movie. Still miserable -- sometimes the world is just too much with us, I guess.

So, I decided I needed to clear my thoughts by taking a walk and being mindful. As Thich Nhat Hanh said:

 Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future.
If we can acknowledge our fear,
we can realize that right now we are okay.
Right now, today,
we are still alive,
and our bodies are working marvelously.
Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky.
Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.

And the miracles I saw changed my whole outlook... 

Deer Trail Down the Bank..

Joe Pye Weed. I saw this as a specimen in New England. Here, it is a weed!

A bird's nest, empty, blown from a tree. I collect them. What a gift!

This lovely let me photograph it and then flew above my head as I walked. Angel? 
By the time I arrived back home, my spirit was quiet, my legs tired, a gentle moisture from the rain on my face. I was alive. My body worked. All is well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This week we are busy getting farm chores done. While it is hard to think about winter when it is 88-degrees, we know it is coming and we have to be ready.

The girls inspect limbs that will become kindling for the wood stove. 

Dead apple trees make the most wonderful smelling firewood!

Mister working on a pine.
Thoreau was right; wood does warm one twice!
Don't let the sky fool you; it was blistering hot!
Twilight walk. I love the evening light more than sunrise.
Uh-ho....too early to see this!

In addition to all the farm work, I am putting by garden goodies. My Grandmother's four gallon crock is full of cukes soaking in brine for icicle pickles. They are my favorite. Mister doesn't care for pickles, so the 14 pints will be Just Enough. Squash has been frozen and tomatoes are coming on in a week or so! Can't wait!

What have you been into this week? How do you prepare for winter?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Welcome everyone who is dropping in from Rhonda's lovely post! I am flattered to have been featured on favorite place selections!

I hope you will enjoy visiting and come back soon!

Have a seat and enjoy your visit! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Projects, Pigs, Pals...

Feeding and watering the pigs is always fun! They are so cute and have such interesting personalities....and their favorite thing to do is to rub against me to scratch their backs. This means I leave the pig pen covered in mud. Sometimes, they put their noses against my legs to smell where I have been and I leave with a perfect oval with two small holes from their snout. Trust me. If pigs had thumbs, we'd be working for them...

Clara, more faithful than the pups... and won't be still...
Out of the 21 goats, Clara is the most faithful. Where ever I go in the pasture, she is right by me and will knock the others out of the way if they dare to get closer than she!

Me, 18, Monterrey Beach
Been cleaning out pictures this week during the particularly hot and steamy parts of the day. I found this picture and could taste the way the day felt to me.... Isn't it funny how a photograph can trigger such a tangible memory? I spent the better part of two years, three months of it on beaches, bumming around the country starting when I was 18. This day was cool, by beach standards, and the sun was sparkling, the sky astoundingly blue. Delicious...

Cutest booties ever...
Finished the baby blanket and sweater and had enough yarn left to make these adorable booties. Honestly, they knit up in less than 30 minutes and are the cutest things ever! And, since they took so little yarn, I see that these might become my go-to project for leftovers! I like to give pregnant students a little something handknit for their babies and these would be perfect -- fast, inexpensive, and useable!
Evening walks..
Every day ends with a lovely walk. The pups love the swimming that comes with the walk... I love the stillness to bookend my days...

Equipment repair
And, as always on the farm, one repairs rather than replaces. Installing new handles, a little scrub of a wire brush, some oil, and these are good as new. This week, I am teaching myself to change the oil in my tractor. It won't be today, however. The rain has poured all night and we have flash flood warnings. So, it is a "finish in the house" day -- touch up some paint in the upstairs bath, finish the three doors in the dining room, rough up the trim in the downstairs bath and repaint.

What are you into this week?